Stewart, I am a believer that a fan base must always answer the question "And hire whom?" before they talk about firing a coach. If you cannot name a better option than the current guy, forget it. I find myself teetering on the Mark Richt discussion. If he goes, who would be your hire? -- Dave, Atlanta
I'm with you, Dave. If Georgia runs off Richt this year, it will be textbook Clemson/Ole Miss Syndrome. (Note the example cited in that link: Minnesota. How's that working out?) Historically, Georgia is more prestigious than either of those teams -- but not as much as Dawgs fans like to think. In all my travels, I'm not sure I've ever come across a fan base whose self-perception is so far from reality. Georgia fashions itself a national power in the vein of Ohio State, USC, et. al., based primarily off one glorious three-year run 30 years ago with Herschel Walker (and some kick-butt years in the 1940s). Prior to this season, the Dawgs under Richt had vastly outperformed their historical "equilibrium," and in fact Richt's career winning percentage (.752) is the highest in school history (not counting Bobby Winston's lone 5-1 season in 1894).
But in today's SEC, the goal is national championships, and three other league coaches hired by their schools more recently than Richt -- Florida's Urban Meyer, LSU's Miles and Alabama's Nick Saban -- have 'em. Richt doesn't. And at 0-3 in the SEC, winning one anytime soon probably seems like a very remote possibility. But realistically, the chances of hiring another Ray Goff are higher than the school landing its own Meyer or Saban. Texas head-coach-in-waiting Will Muschamp (a UGA alum) is a realistic and enticing possibility, but beyond that, there is not a single coach out there I'd consider an upgrade from Richt (and even Muschamp is no guarantee). Let's see how the season plays out. With a light upcoming schedule, a freshman quarterback who should theoretically progress and the return of A.J. Green, my guess is the Dawgs will go on a run. If they can salvage things and win eight games, and still fire him ... well, just take a look at Tennessee for a glimpse into their immediate future.
There is nothing wrong with Notre Dame football that the right coach cannot fix.
This is not a problem caused by academic standards or Midwestern climate or a lack of conference affiliation. This is a coaching problem.
Whereas Texas has hard evidence on its behalf in the form of its 45-35 victory over OU on Oct. 11, any argument in favor of Oklahoma is essentially subjective. It comes down to arbitrarily determining the Sooners are playing better right now than are the Longhorns.
When Minnesota originally hired its new coach two years ago, the initial reaction was: "Who?" When he proceeded to produce a 1-11 record in his first season, a lot of Gophers fans were asking, "Why (did we hire this guy?)" When he managed to woo a top-20 recruiting class to Minnesota, the whole country wondered: "How?" And now we're left asking the same question now that Brewster has inexplicably turned the Gophers from 1-11 to 6-1 (even finding a way to mysteriously beat Illinois despite allowing 550 yards).
Having talked to Brewster, it's easy to see why players buy into him. His relentlessly upbeat, energetic personality is contagious. Minnesota still has a ways to go in building up its talent level, but several of Brewster's imports are already paying dividends. Freshman RB Deleone Eskridge ran for 124 yards and two TDs against the Illini, while juco LB Simoni Lawrence returned a fumble for a touchdown. Having already faced Ohio State, and with no Penn State or Michigan State on the schedule, the Gophers could well win eight or nine games. Can you say Coach of the Year?
For 11 of the past 12 years, the Baylor Bears have taken up residence in the basement of the Big 12's South Division. It's become so second nature we've long since forgotten there was any other possibility ... but there is. The Bears have exhibited an unexpected spark under first-year coach Art Briles. With the help of freshman QB Robert Griffin, Baylor throttled Pac-10 cellar dweller Washington State last week, then went to Connecticut on Friday and took the defending Big East co-champs right to the wire. The Bears certainly aren't going to win their division title -- but they're no longer its worst team, either. That distinction goes to rebuilding Texas A&M, which lost its opener to Arkansas State and, on Saturday, got run off its own field by Miami. The Aggies have to travel to Waco this season. It used to be a gimme; not anymore.